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Can't Stop the Movies
10May/191

Depression Expression #4 – “Better” Body

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Previous entry: Exhausting Love.

"You look like you've lost even more weight and you're awful pale."

"You could stand to lose a few pounds."

Left, me earlier today after I was finally able to move. Got horrible breakthrough pain at about 4 AM this morning, wasn't able to get back to sleep until 7:30 or so (not that I was sleeping a lot). I'm at about 200 lbs here, just a shade over where I "should" be depending on what body mass / weight / height metric you decide to use.

Right, me in 2015 getting engagement photos taken. Was fresh from my first round of therapy and fairly stable on meds. Job wasn't great but I had one. Hadn't had lunch yet and I'd start sweating soon. Not because of my weight, which was about 240 lbs in this photo, but because I heat up and sweat real fast. I was happy.

And god knows I'm not happy with how I look, feel, or generally take in the world at the moment and my expression seems to match that. But with a bit of effort I'd look presentable and downright healthy if I mustered the energy to smile.  That'd be a lie, or at least a misconception, about everything that's going on inside.

I'm reminded of how easy it is to assume someone's health via another bad doctor experience. I went to a pain specialist here in Georgia with the hopes of figuring out why my back / flank hurt all the time. This was before I started making strides in my therapy (round 1) so I was upset and tired of being in pain all of the time. When I started crying during the appointment because of how exhausted I was with my condition the doctor put down his clip board, threw up his hands, and said "No, no no no. Look at you. You look great, healthy, you see those other people hooked up to machines when you walked in?"

Not helpful doc, and one of the few times I mustered up the strength to tell someone being mean to me - at the moment - that they were being mean. In this case I gathered my breath and asked, "Could you please stop being so condescending to me?"

But how many folks would take a look at me (if, again, I cleaned up a bit) and think I looked healthy? I have to be down in my skivvies before even those closest to me would be able to tell the full extent of the changes my body's gone through the last year and a half or so - to say nothing of the further weight loss in just this last month. Even when this stone's out of me, so much as it can be out of me, I got another just hanging around my other kidney and I'm a chronic producer. Toss the other physical, mental, and emotional issues into that mix and I stand to be in rough shape for a while.

I'm not writing these things as a way of miring myself in despair. I'm writing this because I'm tired of people taking a quick glance or two at me and after three or four minutes of conversation deciding they know what's healthy for me or not. I've been guilty of this before and, while you might not be able to guess from my writing on this site, I've similarly been awful about fat-shaming people. These aren't quite correlative, I get that, but with mental and physical healthcare in decline such as they are I'd just as soon this serve as a reminder to myself to be kinder to myself, and for readers along with myself to stop assuming someone's health situation unless you're their damn doctor.

And even then, given the experiences I've had with bad doctors, maybe a few of them should take this as a lesson too.

Now I'm looking at myself on the right and remembering that no matter how happy things were (I was getting married), how optimistically my outlook had increased (therapy and meds were doing what they needed to do), and how stable everything else was (job, healthcare, savings) - I was still down on myself for looking chubby in my engagement and wedding photos. Despite all the progress and healthy bits that I could have been reveling in, that's one of the things my memory clung to.

Following up from yesterday, I want my memory to cling onto the things that'll keep me healthy, not the things that are going to keep me from being happy because I've made myself more depressed than the reality is. And the reality sucks right now, it does, it's shaky and I'm terrified. But I know I can get through all this, get through my surgery, and get back on that forever path to feeling kindness toward myself. I know this because of the smile I've got in the right photo.

There's no reason I can't also examine myself a bit more closely in the meantime so I don't repeat any painful assumptions toward others. If I can heal, I can learn.

Next entry: Codependent Creators

Please help me if you can:

Filed under: 2019 1 Comment
9May/191

Depression Expression #3 – Exhausting Love

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http://www.cantstopthemovies.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Pure-Good.jpg

Previous entry: Not Feeling Special In Small Rooms

Don't force it.

I wrote that about ten minutes ago. I wasn't going to force the writing if it wasn't going to come. Then I started thinking about how tired I am. Not trying to dwell in it is difficult, especially since pain medications that work put me in a state of almost hyper-aware melancholy. After the panic attack last week, melancholy seems almost preferential, but that doesn't do much for the depression that remains.

But I didn't sleep well. Barely slept today. And now I mused on my exhaustion before a memory drifted in of something a loved one told me a long time ago.

"Andrew, you're exhausting to love."

That's not a great thing to hear. Telling anyone that's close to you that the greatest emotion they could feel for you is tantamount to the state I feel today is a rough comparison. In a certain light it could be seen as mean. Destructive, even.

Here's the problem. That's not what I was told. Almost as soon as the memory floated into view I remembered the reality.

"Andrew, we love you, but you're exhausting."

Maybe you don't see this as any better than the previous but there's an important shift for me. First is in the memory. I've been equating my relationships to people, even if they were happy, as being exhausting regardless of whether that was true or not. I was always going to be some kind of weight to them that makes normal existence more tiring than if I wasn't there.

But my memory was wrong. And I have to wonder, just how much of my perception has been screwed up by living with depression that was only diagnosed four years ago? It seems like a long time, four years, to be on different medications, going to different doctors, and spending hours mired in uncertainty about where my health and life were going.

That's little compared to the nineteen, almost twenty, years I spent living with this depression. How many relationships came and went that were tainted by this depression during that time? I'm not just talking about romantic partners, but friendships as I moved from state to state, family members who have since passed on, even pets. All of them have memories and emotions attached to them that went through my damaged filter.

The reason I'm not despairing right now and feel somewhat motivated by both the memory returning and the revelation is that I still have loved ones from those years. No matter how damaged I feel, or the weight I imagined I was putting on people, there are still people willing to tell me that they love me because they love me without qualifiers.

And even though I'm in pain with another surgery on the horizon working on little rest, I was still able to correct my memory. Better to say - the memory that was always there emerged from the pain and corrected the course my emotions and mind were on. Whatever disconnect I've been feeling from myself seems to be fixing itself as I write.

I have ideas now. Ways I can start thinking about and considering this depression without making myself the weight in it. Ways that I can keep this motivation going.

It's good I didn't try to force it.

Today's image is from Ingmar Bergman's Cries and Whispers featuring selfless comfort for the sick.

Next entry: "Better" Body

Please help me if you can:

Filed under: 2019 1 Comment
8May/193

Depression Expression #2 – Not Feeling Special In Small Rooms

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Larson

Previous entry: Nine Day Breakdown

At about 9 o'clock this morning, I was sitting in a x-ray dressing room by myself. The nurse had left because some technical hangup with the room we were using required us to wait until the other was available. So I sat in that small room, desperately trying not to panic, when that traitorous whisper started to creep back into my mind.

"I'm not special."

This is not my whisper. I recognize this now. But it sure felt like my whisper when I started feeling this way a couple of months back. I had gotten my résumé together and was back on the prowl for work. When I wasn't getting hits as quickly as I'd hoped, I started to despair and talk with my mom (as I've done more of these days). She started telling me how my job hunt shouldn't take too long because of how smart and talented I am.

The whisper hissed at me, "I'm not special."

I imagine, even if I was healthier, that if my primary contact with healthcare providers is through abandonment in rooms - intended or not - and employment opportunities a series of cold prompts where human contact seems rare that I would not feel cared for. Not that I have any expectation of potential employers caring (especially in our cold times), and with technology how it is it's easier to apply for jobs now than ever before, but healthcare and employment are two pillars of stability I need to know I can rely on. Right now the healthcare portion is shaky and the employment aspect is nonexistent until I get this stone out of me and improve my health.

The inattention and disregard whisper at me, "I'm not special."

What I'm struggling with, every time the whisper creeps back, is the idea that I am special and I know I'm special. It's difficult to feel that way, if not borderline impossible, when I leave the few places I feel safe and am left in silence. I have to convince myself in these moments because the systems I rely on aren't going to step in and I can't get myself to go away, so I've tried to find ways to remind myself that yes I'm special and yes I'm worth it and yes I am going to get through this.

I am special.

My x-ray nurse recognized how uncomfortable and scared I was. She apologized for the wait and asked me if I needed her to get me anything. Two small gestures but I felt seen in the middle of all the medical machinery. It was like when my doctor touched my shoulder briefly earlier still. I sometimes jump at unexpected touch but I didn't when he lightly grabbed. It was tender like the nurse's later care was for me. They were moments I didn't realize I needed until later on in the day, now, when I'm reminding myself that I am worth fighting for. Even if I don't always see it, there's someone out there who might and I can see that bit of myself in their touch no matter how brief.

I am special, even when I feel like I'm not.

I've been so wrapped up placing my self-worth solely in what I can do for people that when things have gone wrong I collapse. Until recent years they were private collapses, taking moments to curse myself or cry where no one could see me. Being in pain and unable to be as helpful as I want right now does not make me any less important to my wife, family, cats, friends, and loved ones. I do not need to feel like the support pillar all of the time. I can still be me, find a way back to my feisty and passionate self, without feeling like I'm becoming just another person because no such nobody exists. All of my interactions - your interactions - carry individual sparks.

I am special, you are special, we are special.

I am special.

I am special.

I am special.

I am here.

Today's image comes from Room, the 2015 film starring Brie Larson, and today I resonated with that despair of being confined to one role in limited space while still finding a way to power through.

Next entry: Exhausting Love

Please help me if you can:

Filed under: 2019 3 Comments
7May/194

Depression Expression #1 – Nine Day Breakdown

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Nine days ago, I woke up after spending the night in pain and went to the bathroom. The color of urine I produced was similar to that of the liquid that bug is struggling against above. I went to a local urgent care, received medication, and instructions to go to the ER if things got worse.

Seven days ago, things got worse. I was in the middle of a conversation with my mom trying to figure out what I was going to do when I started having the largest panic attack of my life. My breathing got so erratic and out of control that I lost most feeling in my hands and feet. I was barely able to get to my wife who, while talking to my parents, took me to the hospital. There I found out that the pain medication I was prescribed from the urgent care facility was making me extremely paranoid. I also confirmed the presence of a 8mm stone in my left kidney. Not that the stone's existence was in doubt, mind you, but the size was not yet determined so at least that bit of knowledge got filled in.

Five days ago, I went to see my therapist for the first time in almost two years. It did not go quite as I'd hoped. Whatever changes occurred in the time between our last visit and her relocation to her new surroundings made her defensive in an offensive way. At one point she told me that I must be taking pain meds like popping them out of a Pez dispenser. She said this because she misunderstood that I had only been on meds for a few days, and she thought I had been taking pain medication ever since the pain began (which, to the best of my knowledge, is the start of March). I've rarely felt the weight of a room change that dramatically when she realized her error. The rest of our session was confirming things I'd suspected about myself and what I needed to do next.

Three days ago, I was ready to roll over and just let nature do its thing. I don't know how I feel writing that. I don't want to die and I don't want to kill myself, but I just wanted to stop trying to do anything. I didn't know if I had the strength to go through a third round of kidney surgery. I didn't know how I'm going to get through the next few months with my job search stymied by this whole "whacked out on pain meds and horrifically depressed because I'm peeing blood" thing. I felt useless. I'm still feeling useless, but that was probably the lowest point. I could barely get up to give my cats water and had to ask my wife to help me with just about everything. I've always been consumed with this need to feel useful, to be protective if someone needs shielding, and even in my previous surgery bouts I've largely been able to keep functioning, keep working, keep cleaning, and so on. Not this time. This time I lost most of my will to just keep trying and the pain didn't help.

But that was three days ago. Today, something roared inside of me. Not broke, or felt pain (though there is still physical pain), or twisted into something horrible and unrecognizable. Instead what roared inside of me was something I recognized and needed. It was that urge to write. It doesn't pay the bills as I'd hoped, but it's what kept me going for so long and I can't abandon it. So the roar took me out of my bed where I was able to do some cleaning, take out the trash, and get a shower. I hurt, physically and emotionally, but it was hurt the roar started to diminish the pain (save, again, the physical pain).

And now I'm writing. I don't think this is going to be a particularly easy journey, so I need to be writing now more than ever. In truth I feel like that bug. Largely insignificant in the grand scheme of things, stuck in a hospital, and struggling not to drown in my own ache.  I don't think many of you will recognize that bug, but it's from Kieslowski's second film of The Decalogue "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." And it's a story that ends, if not happily, then at least with the participants alive and the protagonist ethically secure in his future.

I feel like that's a fine thing to aim for. Survival. And part of that, at least for me, is documentation. I need to write. Even if it's just because whatever part of my body stays out of whack remains so only because I'm not writing. There's more to it than that, obviously, but this is what got me up and this is what got me going again so this is what it's going to be.

My plan, for now, is to end the day by writing and writing until I'm done. Will that be ten words or ten hundred? That'll depend on the day, but I will write. I will not let myself be paralyzed anymore and I know it will be hard but I have to keep trying.

I hope you'll come along with me on this. It won't be the reviews as normal, as I've been so depressed and in so much pain that I've barely been able to even watch any movies, but it may turn into something deeper.

Next Entry: Not Feeling Special In Small Rooms

Please help me if you can:

Filed under: 2019 4 Comments
11Mar/190

Leaving Neverland (2019) and After Neverland (2019)

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Leaving Neverland, directed by Dan Reed, details how Michael Jackson groomed Wade Robson and James Safechuck for years of sexual abuse by his hands.

The deepest cut from Leaving Neverland comes from an expected medium but not the obvious source - the music by Chad Hobson. Michael Jackson's tunes play incidentally, part of the footage, commercials, and old behind-the-scenes bits that provide context to Dan Reed's film. But as Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck detail the years of sexual grooming and abuse Michael inflicted on them, Hobson's score joins with a helicopter shot over Jackson's Neverland Ranch in a tune eerily reminiscent of Disney's iconic theme before dropping into darker tones. The allure is right there, the initial pull, and if you don't watch or listen closely enough you'll be mired in darkness before you understand how you got there.

Reed's direction of Leaving Neverland doesn't have that problem. If anything, we've been flooded with information about Jackson's grooming process for decades and chosen not to care about it. I write choose because, even before Leaving Neverland, Jackson's grooming of future sexual abuse victims hasn't even been an open secret. It's been something we've decided to laugh about, making horrible jokes to keep the abuse at a comfortable distance while we jam out to whichever Jackson album we decided made the abuse okay. Reed's job with Leaving Neverland then isn't to put everything that we know into total context, examining the system that allowed Jackson to get away with this from top-to-bottom, and instead to provide as clear an image as possible for the two victims ready to tell their full stories.